Students warm the feet, hearts of homeless with Soks Co.
As the bitter wind signals the beginning of winter in Duluth, students are helping the homeless community stay warm. With every pair of socks you buy online from Soks Co. a pair will be donated to the Damiano Center, a homeless support center.
Soks Co. founders Austin Nelson, Patrick Wolf, Jon Eastlund and Eric Smedsrud met in the fall of 2017 in a entrepreneurship class. The class was given a semester long challenge to build a business to solve a problem within the community. Nelson, Wolf, Eastlund and Smedsrud decided to take on homelessness in Duluth.
“Homelessness in Minnesota isn't addressed as much as we want it to [be],” Nelson said, “in particular with physical goods. After some research we found that socks are the lesser donated items to homeless shelters.”
The teams mission to is sell “Purpose With Every Pair.” In order to help the homeless stay warm and clothed they needed help.
The group reached out to the Damiano Center in downtown Duluth. The center provides emergency meals and free clothing for the homeless. They found that the Damiano Center could help them with their mission.
“We wanted to look for something that was more than just a business to make money but something to give back to the community,” Wolf said.
Soks sells merino wool and cable knit socks made from wholesale manufacturers in Washington state and overseas. The merino wool socks are ample for both the summer and winter conditions. Co-founder Patrick Wolf says they are quality products.
“I’ve had people who bought the socks last year tell me they still have them and wear them all the time,” Wolf said. “It's good to see they’ve been using [the socks] for a whole year and [they’re] still together, still look brand new and they say [they’re] still comfortable and warm. It's good to know that the socks we donated are probably out there and still being used.”
Soks recently started their “Purpose” collection featuring more warm outerwear such as beanies and sweatshirts. When these products are sold, 25 percent of all net profits are donated to the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
The collection marks the company’s attempt to grow statewide and offer a wider variety of products. Currently Soks is striving to get into local stores that want to support their cause.
The group did not know one another prior to their entrepreneurship class. Wolf, a civil engineering major, and Nelson, an accounting major, quickly learned their respective skills complemented one another.
“We were able to bounce ideas off one another,” Nelson said. “The workflow was very natural.”
“I’m looking at how we can make business as efficient as possible,” Wolf said. “[Nelson] knows the more business, accounting, financial side. We’re trying to get that diversification within a group.”
In November, Soks Co. will celebrate its one year anniversary. The team relishes that they donated over 200 pairs of socks last winter season.
“At the end of the day when we got to donate all those socks it was a different kind of feeling of achievement,” Nelson said.
For more information and to purchase socks and other outerwear apparel visit the Soks website.